Charles Leclerc is an up and coming Monégasque racing driver currently competing in Formula One for Scuderia Ferrari. Born on 16 October 1997 to Hervé Leclerc and Pascale, he was also a godson to Jules Bianchi with whom he had close relationship till the latter’s death.
With his father also racing in Formula 3 during the 80s and the 90s, it is little wonder that Leclerc took to racing motor cars. Leclerc won the feature race at the Formula 2 Baku round only four days after his father died of a long illness at the age of 54. His younger brother Arthur and older brother Lorenzo are his two siblings. Leclerc also made a cameo appearance in the movie Le Grand Rendez-vousa.
Leclerc’s laurels include winning the 2016 GP3 Series Championship and the FIA Formula 3 Championship in 2017. Leclerc made his debut in Formula One for Sauber, closely related to Ferrari, in 2018 when he was at the Ferrari Driver Academy. He helped Sauber improve their position from last, the previous year, to finish eighth in 2018 when Leclerc finished higher than his teammate.
Ferrari rewarded Leclerc with a contract from 2019 to 2022. At the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, he became the youngest Formula One driver, to qualify in pole position. It was in 2019 that Leclerc took his first Formula One win in the Italian Grand Prix. He won the Pole Trophy for the 2019 season, the first driver outside Mercedes drivers to win the trophy since its inception in 2014.
Charles Leclerc’s Career Before Formula 1
Leclerc took to karting at a very young age, winning the 2005, 2006 and 2008 French PACA championship. He won the French Cadet championship in 2009 before he went on to the KF3 class. He won the Junior Monaco Kart Cup in 2010. In 2011 Leclerc won the CIK-FIA World Cup, the CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy and the EDRF Junior Kart Masters.
In 2012 Leclerc won the WSK Euro Series title for the factory-backed ART Grand Prix Team while finishing second in the CSK-FIA KF2 Championship. He also finished runners-up in the CIK-FIA Under 18 World Karting Championship.
Leclerc won the South Garda Winter Cup in 2013. The same year he also finished sixth in the CSK-FIA European Karting Championship. He went on to finish second in the CSK-FIA World KZ Championship behind Max Verstappen, the current Red Bull Formula One driver.
Formula Renault, Formula Three and GP3 (2014-2016)
In 2014, Leclerc took to driving single-seater cars for the British Fortec Motorsports Team competing in the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps. He finished runner-up in the championship that season, taking six podium positions which included double wins at Monza.
Leclerc won the Junior Championship title that year in the final race in Jerez. He competed in a part of the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 season with Fortech that year. He contested in six races in the contest finishing second at Nürburgring, with another two second-place finishes at Hungaroring.
Van Amersfoort invited Leclerc to race in Formula 3 in 2015. Competing in the FIA Formula European Championship, Leclerc won pole positions in the second and third races at the inaugural Silverstone circuit after the disqualification of the original pole-sitter. He secured a victory in the third race ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi and Jake Dennis.
Leclerc secured his second victory in Hockenheim by winning the third race as well as two podium finishes and three rookie wins during the event. Despite taking his third win in the first race at Spa-Francorchamps, Leclerc finished fourth in the standings. That was because of the damage his car sustained in a collision with Lance Stroll at Zandvoort.
Leclerc contested in the Macau Grand Prix and finished second in November 2015 and then started testing with ART Grand Prix and Arden international. ART signed Leclerc for the 2016 season, and he returned the favour by claiming three victories. He won the title in Abu Dhabi where he had crashed during the feature race.
FIA Formula 2 (2017)
After Leclerc won the GP3 title, Prema Racing signed him to race for the 2017 Formula 2 season alongside Antonio Fuoco. Leclerc responded by taking pole position in his debut race in F2 and winning the race despite the team’s decision to take a mid-race pit stop, which dropped him down to the 14th position.
Leclerc won the subsequent race in the Catalunya, taking pole position and fighting off Luca Ghiotto. He had a bad race in his home circuit in Monaco. He had to retire from the race due to a suspension problem from the pole position. In the sprint race, he started from the back and collided with Norman Nato causing both drivers to retire.
Retaining the championship lead despite the bad showing in Monaco, Leclerc secured another pole in Azerbaijan. He won the race despite the race being red-flagged with five laps left to the finish. He took a fifth consecutive pole in Austria and won the race fighting off stiff competition.
Leclerc’s sixth pole in a row at Silverstone equalled a record set by Stoffel Vandoorne in 2014 and 2015, when the series was called the GP2 Series. His car caught fire during the feature race, but Leclerc continued racing and won the race in spite of one of his wing mirrors detaching towards the end of the race.
Leclerc was disqualified for a technical infringement from the pole position in Hungary. Starting from the back, he was in the 12th position by the end of the first lap. Leclerc finished the race in the fourth place, as he did in the sprint race the following day. But he yet had a 50-point Championship lead over his closest rival, Rowland.
In Belgium, Leclerc again took pole, but was disqualified because his skid blocks were worn. He finished the race second despite going back to fifth. Fighting for the lead in Italy, Leclerc collided with De Vries. He started from the back of the grid in the sprint race and worked his way to the ninth position at the finish.
Leclerc gained his eighth pole at Jerez. When dominating the race with seven laps to go, the safety car came out because of a collision. On resumption, Leclerc was misinformed over the team radio that there was only one lap to go when there were four laps to cover. Believing his team, Leclerc tore down the track towards the finish. Leclerc found out that his tyres were overheating badly.
By the time Leclerc finished and won the race, his tyres were completely worn out. But he had won the FIA Formula 2 Championship in his rookie season. He had won with a lead of 72 points over his closest rival, Artem Markelov, in the main F1 feeder series. Leclerc became the youngest FIA Formula 2 Champion at 19 years and 356 days to win the title in the rookie year.
After claiming the title, Leclerc was placed second in Abu Dhabi when Rowland and Fuoco were disqualified from the first two places. Leclerc won the last race of his FIA F2 career in the final race in Abu Dhabi, constantly jostling with Albon for a win by 1.293 seconds.
Charles Leclerc’s Career In Formula 1
In 2016, Leclerc had joined the Ferarri Driver Academy and served as a development driver for the Haas F1 Team and Scuderia Ferrari. Driving for Haas, Leclerc took part in the first practice sessions of the British and German Grands Prix. Leclerc participated in testing at the Hungaroring, recorded the fastest time, and was praised by Kimi Räikkönen for the feat.
Leclerc signed for the Sauber F1 Team for the 2018 Formula One season to race alongside Marcus Ericsson. At Azerbaijan, he became the first Monégasque to compete in the Formula One Championship after Oliver Beretta in 1994. On finishing sixth in the race, he also became the second Monégasque to score points in Formula One after Louis Chiron, who finished third in 1950.
Leclerc suffered brake failure towards the final laps in his first home Grand Prix. He collided with Brendon Hartley and had to retire. A run of three races where Leclerc finished with points was followed by five races without any. The five races included a loose wheel in Britain, three retirements and a collision in Hungary.
A ninth-place finish in Singapore followed by seventh in Russia saw Leclerc retire in Japan due to mechanical problems and a collision in the United States. He finished all the final three races in the seventh place. Leclerc finished 13th in the placings with 39 points and out-qualified his teammate Ericsson.
Leclerc replaced Kimi Räikkönen at Ferrari for the 2019 Formula One season. He made his debut as a test driver for Ferrari during the end of the 2018 season. He was assured that his contract at Ferrari would last for at least four years (till 2002).
Leclerc finished 5th at the Australian Grand Prix in his first outing as a driver for Ferrari. He secured a pole in Bahrain, setting a new track record and becoming the youngest Ferrari pole-sitter. Leclerc led for most of the race but had engine problem towards the end when Hamilton and Bottas overtook him. Leclerc had won the first podium in his Formula One career.
Having qualified behind Vettel in China, Leclerc overtook his teammate, but was asked to give way. He finished fifth in the race. In Azerbaijan Leclerc suffered a crash during qualifying. He started eighth and finished the race in fifth place with an additional point for the fastest lap.
In Monaco, Leclerc was eliminated in Q1. He started 15 on the grid and Ferrari’s faulty policy and tyre puncture resulted in Leclerc retiring for the second time on his home circuit. Leclerc finished third at the Canadian as well as at the French Grands Prix. In Austria, Leclerc qualified for pole and led for the major part of the race. A collision with Max Verstappen forced a second-place finish.
Leclerc qualified third in the British Grand Prix, ahead of Max Verstappen. Despite many attacks by Verstappen to overtake him, he maintained his position, finished third, and was voted as the Driver of the day.
Having problems with the fuel system, Leclerc qualified 10th in the German Grand Prix. Leclerc fought his way to fourth place during the initial laps. But a questionable decision by the Ferrari team to fit his car with soft tyres on too wet a track caused Leclerc to crash. In Hungary, Leclerc continued despite a rear-end crash and finished fourth.
In Belgium, Ferrari took a 1-2 qualification finish with Leclerc leading. Leclerc somehow fended off a charging Lewis Hamilton to record his maiden Grand Prix victory. Leclerc dedicated the win to Antonie Hubert, his competitor in F2, who had died the previous day during the feature race at the same circuit.
In Italy, Leclerc led and won the race from pole to finish, becoming the first Ferrari driver after Fernando Alonso to win at Monza in 2010. In Singapore, Leclerc started from pole but was undercut by Vettel and finished second. In Russia, he again started from pole and Vettel was undercut by the team. But the two Mercedes overtook Leclerc who finished third.
Leclerc finished sixth in Japan, fourth in Mexico and fourth in the United States. A third-place finish in Japan saw Leclerc finish the season in the fourth place with 264 points. He had ten podium finishes, four poles and two wins during the season. Having won the most poles, Leclerc won the Pole Position Award becoming the first Monégasque to win a Grand Prix race.
In 2020, Leclerc had a terrible start to the season despite recovering from qualifying seventh and recovering to finish second in Austria. Several chaotic events, including a reprimand by the FIA for mixing with the public during his home Grand Prix, ensued. Leclerc scored no points during the races after Austria and before the British Grand Prix.
Leclerc finished third in the British Grand Prix and followed it up with a fourth-place finish in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. He crashed during the Italian Grand Prix but earned three consecutive top-five finishes, starting from Portimão in Portugal. In Turkey, Leclerc was well poised to finish third.
But an error while trying to overtake Sergio Pérez resulted in him surrendering the podium place to his teammate, Vettel. Leclerc finished the 2020 Formula One season in the eighth place with 98 points and no wins.